Once you’ve established the direction of your site, drafted up a template and resolved any functionality issues, it’s time to have a chat with your client about the actual branding of their website. As a designer, this is an essential part of the build process and will often have a huge part of play in the eventual success of the site – after all, clients want a site that portrays their sense of professionalism and capability within their industry, and the aesthetics of the end result have to match the company’s message. Part of this conversation should definitely revolve around the colour scheme of the new site – but why is the psychology behind your individual choice of colours so important, and how can you avoid turning potential customers off simply by spending a bit more time analysing your HTML colour wheel or CSS colour codes?
You don’t want to overpower the user with loud, offensive colour arrangements. People browsing the web know what to expect from a first-class website and want to land on a page that’s sleek, chic and clean-looking. Busy backgrounds draw the attention away from the content on the page and can actually make your text difficult to read, which won’t encourage your user to hang around!
If your client has already provided animations or images for use on their site, think about how your chosen colours will sit alongside these elements. You can of course customise the colours to match logos etc.
Users want to be able to navigate your site easily and efficiently, without being put off by reams and reams of ill-matched colours. You need to consider the fact that a large proportion of internet browsers are visually impaired and don’t want to come across a scheme that is harsh on the eye.
The first rule of thumb is to keep your design simple by picking two or three main colours and sticking with them. Each colour could also be used to identify different elements of your site. Links should be coloured consistently – many designers recommend that standard links be coloured blue and ‘clicked’ links be coloured that traditional-looking maroon colour often seen on some of the world’s largest websites. Of course, this scheme is up for negotiation depending on the look of your site!
Bear in mind that dark backgrounds can be overbearing for some. It’s likely that the content could be difficult to read against a darker backdrop, especially if there is a lot of text per page.
Consider the capabilities of ALL of the major browsers and remember that different system render colours in different ways. You may feel that you need to accommodate for this by using web smart colours (colours that will largely appear the same within any browser), but it’s often up to your preferences and priorities as a designer.
Remember the benefits of white space in your design! Keep your colours spaced out well for maximum impact with minimum clutter.
Finally, if you’re concerned that you’re completely wide of the mark with your chosen colour design, why not take a sneak peek at some of your competitor’s sites? Conducting some research into what works (and what doesn’t) on similar sites to your own will help you determine which colours to avoid completely.
Going back to a previous point, it’s essential that you discuss the overall image of the site with your client at the earliest opportunity. This ensures that, as a designer, you’ll come up with something spectacular first time around and won’t be asked to revise your ideas (or, if you do receive a little criticism, it’ll be easily rectifiable and won’t take up too much of your time). Establishing your client’s brand will make your life a lot easier and allow you to pick and choose colours that fit in with their vision of the site. However, the impact of branding has a lot to do with the psychological effects of colour, so you need to be aware of the implications of each colour and the meaning it may have to your targeted audience.
There are a lot of things to consider here, but you mainly have to remember that colours evoke different emotions which will vary from person to person. The subjective understanding of the colour depends on the traditional background and culture of the user. For example, in Europe the colour yellow is widely considered to be a happy, positive shade, whereas in Egypt it’s associated with death and mourning. Do a little investigation into the true meaning of the colours you’re going to use for your client and make sure that they don’t conflict with the intended audience’s perception of the company!
A great technique for contemporary web design is to make your page appear more 3D with the use of shadows, varying gradients and transparent effects. These sorts of tricks can add a classy, high-tech depth to your site and will normally compliment any sort of colour scheme.
By bearing these points in mind, you’ll be able to use colours to your advantage to create a balanced, stunning site that will prove a definite hit with your client, no matter what their original brief!